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Finnish maritime industry propelled by clean solutions

Norsepower’s rotor sail technology reduces fuel consumption, fuel costs and emissions across a variety of vessel types, both old and new.Norsepower

Finland’s shipping industry is charting a course towards a green horizon with a range of sustainable solutions.

In typically stoic fashion, Finland has doubled down on its pledge to become carbon neutral by 2035 and the world’s first fossil-free welfare society.

“Finland’s climate targets are among the most ambitious in the world,” wrote Prime Minister Sanna Marin. “My country aims to be a leader among advanced economies, not just in terms of emissions reductions, but also by ushering in a circular economy focused on sustainability and the elimination of waste.”

This bold declaration has spurred many local industries into action, maritime among them. Having cultivated a global reputation for its expertise in icebreakers and ice-going vessels, cruise ships, offshore solutions and port technology, the Finnish maritime industry is taking a collaborative approach to innovating and developing solutions to achieve compliance.

“The common goal is to secure the position of global technology leader for the Finnish powertrain industry by creating a common vision and sustainable business solutions,” said Maciej Mikulski (left). Image: University of Vaasa

Led by the University of Vaasa, the 15 million-euro Clean Propulsion Technologies project gathers together six research organisations and nine companies to bring new powertrain technologies for clean and efficient marine and off-road transport from the research phase to real-world application.

“The infrastructural and methodological innovations of the project put us at the global forefront of this research direction, while we remain […] unique in terms of our capabilities to handle large-scale, combustion engine-based energy systems,” said associate professor Maciej Mikulski from the University of Vaasa.

The project anticipates significant results in developing a groundbreaking medium-speed engine working in fuel-flexible RCCI (reactivity-controlled compression ignition) mode and a high-speed hydrogen-fuelled engine concept.

Fuel for the future

One of the nine companies involved in the project is Wärtsilä, a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets, and one of Finland’s leading powertrain equipment manufacturers.

“A decarbonised future is essential for the marine industry, and Wärtsilä is an established thought leader as we work towards this target,” saidJuha Kytölä, director of R&D and engineering at Wärtsilä Marine Power. “This project will help us in this by developing concepts, together with other technology leaders, that will make propulsion even more sustainable than it is today.”

Wärtsilä’s pursuit of a clean future for the maritime industry also extends to its uptake of solutions surrounding bio-LNG fuel. The fuel is 100 per cent renewable and can reduce CO2 emissions over its life cycle by up to 90 per cent compared to conventional fuel. Furthermore, it emits no particulate matter and close to zero nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides.

The Finnish Border Guard’s patrol vessel Turva operates with Wärtsilä dual-fuel engines capable of running on bio-LNG fuel. Image: Finnish Border Guard

“We have developed our engine technology to be compatible with the use of such fuels. LNG is already broadly accepted as a viable marine fuel, and we see bio-LNG as a natural next step,” Kytölä commented.

Wärtsilä has already announced a string of developments at home and abroad pertaining to bio-LNG.

The technology group is co-operating with the Finnish Border Guard in the testing of bio-LNG as fuel for a coastguard patrol vessel, Turva. The 96-metre-long vessel is fitted with Wärtsilä dual-fuel engines, and the bio-LNG fuel for the trial is supplied by Gasum, a Finnish state-owned biogas refiner.

Elsewhere, Wärtsilä is to supply the cargo handling and LPG fuel supply systems for two new very large gas carrier vessels being built for China-based Oriental Energy at the Jiangnan yard.

Wärtsilä has a presence in China via its Shanghai-based joint-venture company Wärtsilä Qiyao Diesel Company. Image: Wärtsilä

Wärtsilä has also partnered with Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard to deliver radio and integrated navigation systems for 10 ice-breaking LNG-fuelled gas carriers to be constructed for the Arctic LNG-2 project.

The deal is an extension of an agreement made last year, where it equipped five LNG carriers with integrated bridge systems.

The vessels will operate between the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, Russia, and the main European Union ports. Here, the crew is expected to face some extremely challenging weather conditions.

“We will, therefore, be placing two bridges in the vessels’ superstructure, with one of them turned 180 degrees from the conventional position,” said Alex Van Knotsenborg, director of global sales at Wärtsilä Voyage. “This peculiar design will allow icebreakers to move both forward and aft, thus ensuring safe navigation under adverse Arctic climate conditions.”

Historical inspiration a propellant

Echoing Finland’s goal to reduce emissions, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has pledged to reduce global CO2 emissions per transport work by at least 40 per cent by 2030, helping to spur global competition in finding compatible solutions.

For all of the forward-thinking endeavours, some companies are looking in the rear-view in order to inspire the future. Norsepower’s rotor sail technology is a modernised take on the Flettner rotor, allowing ships to harness the wind to generate thrust, reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Its technology is turning heads among both those constructing new vessels and those updating vessels already in use. Norsepower recently partnered with Newport Shipping to become the exclusive wind propulsion provider on its online portal that aims to ease the complexities of planning retrofit works.

Meanwhile, Norsepower announced the installation of five tilting rotor sails onboard a new-build very large ore carrier (VLOC) chartered by Vale, a Brazilian mining company.

“The five tilting rotor sails will allow Vale to maintain flexible cargo operations while also saving fuel and emissions,” commented Norsepower CEO Tuomas Riski. “Installing our rotor sails on the first VLOC demonstrates that our technology is adaptable across varied operational profiles and vessel types.”

Norsepower estimates that its technology is able to achieve an efficiency gain of up to eight per cent and a consequent reduction of up to 3 400 tonnes of CO2 annually.

The two 35-metre tall tiltable rotor sails are estimated to reduce fuel consumption, fuel costs and emissions by as much as 25 per cent. Image: Norsepower

Closer to home, the company inked a deal earlier this year with SEA-CARGO, a logistics provider in the North Sea market. It installed two 35-metre rotor sails onboard the roll-on, roll-off vessel, SC Connector. This was the world’s first installation of tiltable rotor sails, which enable vessels navigating height-restricted routes to create fuel and emissions savings.

“As we get closer to 2030 IMO targets, we are seeing our technology gaining momentum – with the market seeing the flexibility we can provide to suit different vessel requirements,” Riski said. “This installation demonstrates the technology can go a long way to future proofing IMO GHG compliance, while ensuring significant emissions and fuel reductions to a variety of vessel profiles today.”

By: James O’Sullivan